I’ve written before about how important it is to know what prescription medications are being administered in nursing homes and long term rehab facilities. Many do not have good efficacy, may be dangerous, or may cause problems when mixed with other medications. A new study indicates it is now also important to find out what over the counter (OTC) medications are being given.

The study, reported in the Observer, showed a link between certain medications in the class called anticholinergics and cognitive impairment in the elderly. OTC medications in this class include Dimetapp, Dramamine, Benadryl, and Unisom. This class of medications also includes the prescription medications Toviaz, Paxil and Seroquel. In the study, people using these types of medicines exhibited reduced brain function and increased brain atrophy. Specifically, the study showed that use of these meds affected immediate memory recall and cognition, and may also induce cell death.


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Often, elderly people are prescribed blood thinners, otherwise known as anti-coagulants, like Coumadin and several others. While these drugs can significantly help with conditions such as DVTs (deep vein thrombosis) and strokes, they also present unanticipated dangers. If you have a loved one who is on one of these medications, it is important to know the dangers that can occur with their regular use.

It shouldn’t be much of a surprise to learn that the number one issue safety issue for the elderly is the risk of falling. When the elderly fall, it can be very dangerous for two primary reasons. First, they can suffer bone fractures, most particularly to the hip. Hip fractures lead to immobility and many times death as a result. Second, if there is a head trauma, there can be internal bleeding in the brain. This is called either a subdural hematoma or epidural hematoma, depending on where the blood is pooling in the skull.


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A recent series of disturbing stories by NPR report finding with objective data what many of us practitioners know already – that in many substandard facilities residents are over medicated with sometimes dangerous medications just to keep them quiet.  This is disturbing because these medications are sometimes powerful, dangerous, and ineffective.  Some even get “black

In one of the worst examples we have seen involving the abuse of the elderly, a company whose product was only approved to promote weight gain for HIV patients started to aggressively promote Megace to frail and elderly nursing home residents when the HIV population began to dwindle. Knowing the dangerous side effects of this supplement (ie death), this represents a tragic example of profits over people. To read more, click here.
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Ask any family member caring for an elderly parent with dementia about the number of medications prescribed and it’s likely to be quite a few. It is important to know what someone is prescribed and what for. A new study shows that roughly 20% of medications are prescribed “off label”. You can read an article discussing the study here.
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